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Walnut Street Theater

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1809; 1828 rebuilt, John Haviland; later alterations, Willis G. Hale; 1970–1972 exterior restored and interior reconfigured, John Dickey. 825 Walnut St.
  • Walnut Street Theater (Richard W. Longstreth)
  • Walnut Street Theater (Richard W. Longstreth)

Because of Philadelphia's cosmopolitan population, theaters flourished despite the misgivings of the Quaker fathers. By the 1790s, with the presence of the federal government, modern theaters had moved into the new downtown at S. 6th and Chestnut, and less tony performances were presented in permanent circus buildings to the west. The Walnut Street Theater began as the “New Circus” in 1809, but was enlarged into a theater within a decade. In 1828, John Randall, the developer of York Row just to the east in the 700 block of Walnut Street, retained Haviland to add a new facade in the Regency style then popular in Britain. Its combination of elegant columns and frieze with laurel wreaths and the celebratory Roman gas lamps have been restored, while the interior is a modern theater that serves the Walnut Street Theater Company. On its stage have played the giants of live theater from Joseph Jefferson and Edwin Forrest to Sarah Bernhardt and Katharine Hepburn.

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas


What's Nearby


George E. Thomas, "Walnut Street Theater", [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 2

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, George E. Thomas, with Patricia Likos Ricci, Richard J. Webster, Lawrence M. Newman, Robert Janosov, and Bruce Thomas. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 76-77.

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